Mount St. Mary’s College held a daylong Women’s Leadership Conference in the hills above Brentwood on Saturday. I wound up Bundy to the Chalon campus to attend just one session: a discussion titled “Beyond the Boys Club: Achieving Career Success in Male-Dominated Fields” with architect Annie Chu, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court, commute consultant Carolyn Devinny, and KCRW general manager Jennifer Ferro. (Journalist Tess Vigeland played moderator.) I took these three Pinterest-worthy reminders home after the chat:
“Discrimination isn’t personal”
Asked to share an experience of sexism, Judge Court, who is black, recalled a time early in her legal career when a judge mistook her—very publicly—for the wife of a criminal defendant. Court said she chose to let that racist mistake define the judge, not herself, a decision that turned what could have been a debilitating moment into an empowering one. “It had nothing to do with me,” she says.
“Don’t outsource your self-esteem”
Jennifer Ferro, who said she’s been lucky to work in an estrogen-friendly field, talked about the sexism she encountered while coaching her then 8-year-old daughter’s soccer team. Despite her stature at work, Ferro says she found it difficult to shrug off sexist criticism from the men on the sidelines—until she stopped letting them control her self-esteem. After that she found the confidence to say what she needed: “I coach, you shut-up and cheer.”
“I’m not failing, I’m figuring it out”
Judge Court pointed out that failure is a step on the path to discovery, and that a little spin goes a long way in the self-confidence department. If you don’t get the results you want at first and are willing to try again, you aren’t failing, she said, you’re solving a problem.